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City of London

School for girls

A Level History Visit to Barber-Surgeon Hall

A level historians studying the Early Tudors were fortunate to be able to have a private view of a Holbein portrait of Henry VIII at Barber-Surgeons' Hall. Although Holbein's depiction of Henry VIII is the one that defines our perception of him, the Barbers' portrait is one of the few images of Henry which is known to be partly in his own hand. The blackened bottom left of the painting is where it was damaged in the Great Fire of London.

The archivist of the Barber's Company was also kind enough to show us some documents from the era. We saw the charter from Henry's VIII's reign which merged the Guilds of Barbers and Surgeons, which interestingly lacks any illuminations (note the space for an H in the top left), as although the intention was to add these later, the Guild was rather strapped for cash and could never justify the expense. We also were able to see some ordinances signed by the Lord Chancellor Thomas More, and a copy of the guilt cup that Henry VIII gifted to the Guild. 

Many thanks to the Clerk, Colonel Malachy Doran and the Archivist, Victoria West for their informative and engaging tour.

Mr Tomlinson, History & Politics Teacher